Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains 2004

87 points

California, USA. 13%

Dark colour.

You have to look (breathe) past the acetone aromas.

A flavoursome bright Cabernet with some charm. Not heavy at all but full bodied. Drink 2011-2015.

2012 UPDATE – the oak is still strong.  American oak unfortunately.  Very dry and savoury, quite unlike the typical Cali Cab.  Looks like it may benefit from a couple more years.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2006

86 points

A Chateauneuf De Pape inspired wine, though this is a medium bodied wine, nicely savoury although Brett seemed to be a bit higher than I would have liked.  It’s a roughly 40, 40 blend of syrah and granache with 10% cinsault and a tiny 1% of mouvedre.  Drink now and over the next couple of years.  Screwcap (nice to see on a US wine).

Retains its wonderful label, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_humour

12 year old cabernet tasting

Four good wines, but they weren’t exciting. I had hoped for more enjoyment from 12 year old wines, perhaps I my tongue just was in an odd mood.

Orlando (now Jacob’s Creek) St Hugo 1998

Coonawarra, South Australia

A very cabernet blackberry style. Maybe we should have started with a younger wine because this doesn’t seem to be showing any age to me. I like how it doesn’t reek of minty eucalpyt, but it is fairly straight-forward. I wonder, indeed I doubt, if these wines really gain complexity with age – they seem to merely soften.

Cakebread Cellars Cabernet 1998

Napa Valley, California.

This is very different. Definite age here. Mellow with noticeable alcohol, cuddly wine. Not a syrupy blockbuster, more natural less extracted and concentrated than any Californian cabernet I have had in recent years.

Killerby Cabernet 1998

Margaret River, Western Australia

Dark. Some flavours of grape skins. Disjointed, starting to fall apart ?

Chateau Pontet-Canet 1999

Pauillac, Bordeaux.

Not showing any of the dilution (rain) that hit Bordeaux. Solid but austere style. Lacks the flavour, style (and fun) of Leoville Barton 1999.

Hess Collection Mount Veeder Napa Valley 19 Block Cuvee 2006

85 points. 14.4%

This was a bit of a surprise because Decanter magazine described the 2006 vintage in California as producing lean elegant wines. This is plush almost porty wine with very grapey aromas.

It has concentration and some new oak but it is quite approachable because of the obvious fruit and soft acid and tannin. I don’t expect this wine to fail soon but don’t expect it would give much reward from cellaring.

Quite like a good (non minty) Barossa Cabernet.

A Cab Sav, Malbec, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc blend.

Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Cabernet Bella Oaks Vineyard 1998

86 points

Napa Valley, California, USA. 14.2%

A famous producer, its Margaret vineyard cabernet featured in the 1970s “Judgement of Paris” tasting.

An 11 year wine, and on sale for half price in Philadelphia, quite a find.

It’s a mellow, almost cuddly sort of cabernet.  Without complexity or power.  Sweetish, but not bad by US standards.  A little noticeably over alcoholic.  Drink now.

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2005

83 points

California, USA. 15%

I ordered the stock standard Ravenswood Zinfandel from room service and was pleasantly surprised when this turned up, presumably a more expensive and certainly an older vintage than expected.

Consumed over 2 nights (and not quite finished) this wine never grabbed me. I expect Zin to be big, but the alcohol burn on this was distracting. Ravenswood’s slogan is, or was, “no wimpy wines”, maybe I’m being wimpy although I’ve had many larger or more confronting wines. I just hoped for more spice and interest.

Jordan Cabernet 2002

87 points

Alexander Valley, California. 13.5%

Pungent, almost volatile berry aromas.  Not surprisingly the palate is quite raw, very red current and maybe blackberry.  A bit showy in the sense of being very varietal.  Somewhat mouth pucking acidity.

Interesting, but I wouldn’t want to buy it again.

Spann Vineyards Mo Zin 2003

87 points

Sonoma County, California, USA 14.3%

Zinfandel 72%
Mourvedre 23%
Petite Syrah 5%

from a tiny liquor store in Venice Beach, California. Staffed by some real wine enthusiasts.

A blend that really seems to work. The Mourvedre tones down the overt characters of Zinfandel which under the Californian sun can be ridiculously “tomato sauce with alcohol”.

Lovely fruity tannins on the finish like a good Southern French wine. A touch of mocha oak, but only a deft touch. My main criticism of this wine is the alcohol burn which is annoying even though the wine has 14.3% which is not excessive given the blend and region.

Overall a good fun and honest wine. The blend points the way for others.

St Supery Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

88 points

Napa Valley, California, USA. 13.5%

One of the more fragrant interesting cabernets I’ve had from Cali in recent times. medium to full weight and concentration, a touch of sweetish oak, but only a touch. Not top class fine wine, but sensible wine making not extracting more out of the grapes that they should provide. Good value, and some class. Recommended.

Dare I say it “fairly honest wine in a sea of Parker wannabes”.

B.R. Cohn Sonoma Valley Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

85 points

Sonoma Valley, California, USA. 14.3%

I lost a bottle of the 2001 to airport security but was able to buy this in Cincinnati (for a hefty price though).

Odd sulpher like (reductive ?) burnt match aromas. Clears a little with breathing. But noticeable on the palate too. Rich wine without strident varietal character. Moderate acidity but it carries its alcohol (average for California) well. Toasty French oak in the background, quite well handled.

Overall though this bottle or wine must be faulty. Not enough to make it undrinkable, but I can’t enthuse about the experience.

The winery has a wikipedia page

Opus One 1993 & 1997

90+ points

Napa Valley, California, USA. 13.5%

Both these wines are deep, concentrated, quite luxurious. I think they would stand out against most cabernet dominant Bordeaux, they have less prominent acid, less verve, much softer tannins, they are warmer riper, but not so much as Barossa cabernet. Closer to Chilean cabernet than perhaps anywhere else in the world (though a Don Melchor tasted alongside was much sweeter). The oak is warm, towards the cafe latte style, as if the winemakers have taken the characters they like most about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and applied these to a Californian wine, which indeed probably was the recipe.

The Opus One house style was very consistent across these two wines, it was obvious they were related wines. The differences were that the 1997 was fresher, a bit more concentrated. It’s shaken off its youth but hasn’t built much of the complexity that comes with age. The 1993 is more rounded and a bit less forceful, more enjoyable to drink now. But it too is really one just out of its youth.

I like how these wines aren’t pungent cosmetic cabernet fruit bombs, they are deeper, more rounded and complete. That said I prefer a bit more elegance and complexity. These are hedonistic wines to be sure, but less intellectual than one might hope for given their price.

Top wines tasted in 2005

The top 3 wines on this blog were:
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2002 and Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002
Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 1996

For the commercial wine of the year I’d nominate Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003.

I’ve picked over the blog to list all the 90+ point wines that there is a not unreasonable chance of being able to buy still.

Brini Blewitt Springs Shiraz 2002

Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2001

Rockford Moppa Springs 1999

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2002

Tresmoulis 2000 Corbieres

Chateau Leoville Barton 2001 and 1999

Massena Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2004

Moss Wood Cabernet 2001

Mr Riggs Shiraz 2003

Tyrrells Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003

Robert Chevillon Nuits St-Georges ‘Les Roncieres’ 2002

Chateau Croix de Gay 2001

Roger Sabon Chateauneuf de Pape ‘cuvee prestige’ 2000

Voyager Estate shiraz 2002

Torbreck The Struie shiraz 2003

Browns of Padthaway Ernest shiraz 2002

Peter Lehmann 8 songs shiraz 2000

Chateau Rollan de By 2001

Henriques & Henriques Madeira Malmsy 15 yo

Greenock Creek apricot block shiraz 1999

Chateau Senechaux Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2001

Winter Creek Barossa Shiraz 2002

Laurona 2000
Chateau Potensac 2000

1st Growth Wine Tasting


Chateau Puygueraud 2002 Bordeaux Cotes de Francs 87 points
Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet 2004 83 points
Charles Melton Barossa Valley Cabernet 2002 87+ points
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 95+ points
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2002 Pauillac Bordeaux 93+ points
St Supery Cabernet 1999 Napa Valley 90 points

We started with the Puygueraud half bottle for context. A lovely fresh savoury light wine with some tannin. Should drink and age well over the next 5+ years. Lacks substantial concentration but is very food friendly still. Classic budget claret, excellent cafe/restaurant wine.

Leconfield Cabernet in comparision was all fresh sweet acidic fruit with considerable herbaceousness. Surprisingly approachable for such a young wine, very pleasant. Yet later when we came back to this wine it tasted green and unpleasant. Very interesting addition to the tasting.

Charles Melton’s 2002 Cabernet was another stark contrast. I thought the nose was a bit like some classic Aussie reds of the past (many Cabernet Shiraz blends) warm and with a touch of grease paint – personally I found this quite attractive though it won’t appeal to everyone. There was also quite a lot of other exotic oaky chocolate mocha aromas. Not a particularly varietal (cabernet) wine. A syrupy wine, like some South African wines. Pretty nice to drink even without food. Somewhat choclate milkshake in style. The alcohol is a bit hot and noticeable. Some poeple have used the word ‘elegance’ when describing Barossa cabernet from the cool balanced 2002 vintage – it’s a bit of a stretch. Certainly though there is far less evident added acidity, the wines are fresher and will be less leathery with age. Drink now to enjoy the modern winemaking or leave for a few years for it to settle down into maybe a slightly less sweet traditional Australian red.

The nose on the Lafite was quite a shock to me, so much power and concentration. It had the sort of lead pencil and blackcurrant aromas one should expect but the intensity was arresting. Without tasting this wine it is very obvious that it is extremely young, and is built to age. The colour, needless to say, was very dark and shiny. Very concentrated but not at all syrupy or hefty. Very savoury with plenty of fine tannin. The first taste wiped my mouth clean of flavour, not to suggest that the wine is ethereal, but very tightly bundled and tannic. This wine has real breed, power without weight, and great complexity. It should age superbly and for a long while.

The Mouton was more exotic, a bit more clumsy (hardly a criticism given it is only a baby – perhaps one year in bottle) with sweeter mocha tones of oak. There also seems to be more alcohol, certainly a bit more gylcerol weight and the heroic tannins are more chewy. Very rich and pretty exciting. A bit more showy than the Lafite, serious wine but less classic. With time I expect the differences between these two wines will narrow a tad. Personally I think the sheer style and restraint of the Lafite is more exciting but it is very much down to personal taste. Nice to see difference in style between these neighbours.

St Supery 1999 was a pleasant relief compared to all of the very young wines above. Closer to a bordeaux than to the Australian wines, not syrupy and less hefty than many Californian wines I have tried. 13.8% alcohol which is not bad relatively speaking. Reminded me of some good quality NZ cabernets with well handled french oak and classic tiny touch of herbaceousness, classic winemaking. There is cool climate fruit here. The extra 3+ years in bottle this wine had over the others made it much more drinkable. A nice food wine; less savoury than bordeaux and far less concentrated and complex than the first growths.

1985 Great Western (NY) Vidal Ice Wine

I think the cork on this wine allowed a little too much oxygen in- probably wasn’t designed to hold it this long. I got the wine from a friend, who worked for Great Western Winery, which was part of the Taylor’s Company in the Finger Lakes of NY; it is now part of Constellation, but the brand does not exist anymore. In those days this was an experimental wine; ice wines were just being trialled in Canada (only 100 mles away) and in various parts of NY State. the wine was incredibly intense and long flavoured, but very brown looking, sweet but with very high natural acidity (1.3 grams- where typical Australain wines might be 0.3-0.6). the flavour was grapey- like ripe grapes tasted but with peachy and nectarine overtones.

I left some out to try again tonight to see how it tastes when I am a bit more sober.(Yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary). Vidal is a French American hybrid grape, mainly from Ugni Blanc and grows really well, but makes relatively insipid wines. However, it lasts on the vine a long time and develops interesting stone fruit flavours and stays there until freezing- which many grpaes don’t do. Inniskillen and other canadian producers use it as well, so you might see it if you are looking at ice wines. – Larry Lockshin